At least 90 cases of the highly contagious ‘super-COVID’ variant from the UK have been identified at a prison in Michigan.
Staff and prisoners have been undergoing daily coronavirus testing at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia after a staff member tested positive for the variant, known as B 1.1.7., last week.
Of the 90 new cases, 88 are inmates and two are employees, according to a press release issued on Tuesday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
Officials say there are still 100 lab results pending at MDHHS’s Bureau of Laboratories, meaning the variant could be even more widespread.
Access the country, there are at least 1,364 cases of B 1.1.7 confirmed in 40 states.
At least 90 cases of the highly contagious new coronavirus variant from the UK – 88 in prisoners and two in staff members – have been identified at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan (pictured), with 100 more lab results still pending
Across the country, there are at least 1,364 cases of B 1.1.7. confirmed in 40 states (above)
The UK variant was first discovered in the county of Kent in September 2020, announced as a ‘variant of concern’ in December, and now accounts for at least 61 percent of all cases in Britain.
Most researchers estimated that the virus is about 70 percent more infectious.
However, some studies suggest it could be twice as infectious while more moderate projections say its transmissibility is only about 56 percent higher.
Officials in the UK, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, say the variant may be 30 to 40 percent more deadly, but there is currently no data to support these claims.
There have been two deaths linked to the variant in the U.S., one in New Jersey and another in Alabama.
Bellamy Creek began daily testing after an employee has been confirmed to be infected the UK variant on February 8.
It remains unclear whether the employee is a corrections officer or another staff member.
According to the Detroit Free Press, every prisoner and staff member was tested daily via rapid test, which typically delivers results within 15 minutes.
If the result is positive, then the person is tested used a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – considered the gold standard of tests – and the results are sent to a state lab for verification.
Of the 95 initial samples the lab received, 90 came back positive for the variant.
In the press release, MDHHS officials said the number of positive COVID results began to decline once daily testing began.
‘Since the daily testing results have come in, the number of COVID-19 positive cases at the facility has been on the decline, which indicates the swift efforts undertaken to reduce the spread is working,’ it read.
The release also said that ‘additional precautions’ had been put in place, but specifics on what those are remain unclear.
According to an update from Michigan Department of Corrections last week, 1,844 inmates at Bellamy Creek have been tested with 705 confirmed cases since March 2020. At least one prisoner has died.
In addition, 122 staff members have also tested positive since the pandemic began.
Maurisa, who asked that her last name not be used, said she is worried about a loved one who is currently incarcerated at Bellamy Creek.
‘[The virus] is spreading like wildfire,’ she told FOX 17.
‘My concerns are that there are more positive cases than they’re letting people know about.’
According to The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization, at least 377,497 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 with at least 2,400 deaths.
Among prison staff, there have been at least 101,785 cases among prison staff and 181 deaths.
Part of the problem is that the pandemic has been particularly challenging for inmates inside jails and prisons.
Many correctional facilities are overcrowded or have common areas where social distancing cannot be practiced.
There is often insufficient amounts of soap in bathroom to wash their hands and a lack of access to cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizer and wipes.